Ash Asks State to Investigate Seclusion Room Allegations at LPS
With members of the community and School Committee calling for an independent investigation into allegations of mistreatment of students that arose over the weekend, the schools chief is asking the state to step in.
Superintendent of Schools Paul Ash is asking the Department of Children and Families to investigate two reports of young students with special needs being left in “time out” rooms following allegations of abuse within the Lexington Public Schools.
In a phone interview with Patch, Ash reiterated his belief that school staff acted appropriately during incidences of alleged abuse involving a Fiske Elementary School student being left in a time out room during the 2005-2006 school year. However, as members of the community have called for an independent investigation of the allegations, Ash said he felt filing a 51A report was the best way to allay those concerns.
“In the abundance of caution, the prudent thing to do is file with the state,” said Ash.
Allegations of abuse came to light over the weekend when Bill Lichtenstein, a former resident, wrote about his then 5-year-old daughter being shut inside a separate room, which he described as a “basement closet” and “seclusion room.”
An additional report of a Fiske kindergartener being shut inside a “quiet room” in 2008 emerged during a Sept. 11 School Committee meeting at which parents and members of the committee called for an independent investigation of Lichtenstein’s allegations.
While Ash reviewed Lichtenstein’s allegations and said notes and records from the day show school staff followed protocol, the superintendent and Linda Chase, the district’s director of student services, said those protocols were discontinued in 2007. However, the parent’s emotional account at the School Committee meeting called that assertion in question.
Speaking with Patch earlier in the day on Wednesday, Lichtenstein said an independent investigation into his and other allegations are a step in the right direction to ensuring that children are safe in the schools.
According to Ash, bringing in the state agency ensures the investigators have the expertise and authority to do a more thorough and independent investigation than were the School Committee to attempt to bring someone in from the outside.